There are many projects to get involved with the DFN from orbital modelling to hardware design to meteorite analysis. Projects are highly multi-disciplinary and are suitable for students with backgrounds in physics, astronomy, geophysics, geology, data science, maths and engineering.

from Observation to Mitigation: Leveraging LSST, the Global Fireball Observatory, and DREAMS to Prepare for Asteroid Impacts

The threat of asteroid impacts on Earth necessitates the detection and tracking of potentially hazardous asteroids to develop effective mitigation strategies. This PhD project aims to explore the combined use of the Vera Rubin Observatory (Legacy Survey of Space and Time - LSST) and the Global Fireball Observatory for identifying asteroids impacting the Earth. The upcoming Australian Dynamic REd All-sky Monitoring Survey (DREAMS)'s high-cadence near-infrared observations will open a new parameter space on the asteroid population. With proprietary access to these three world class facilities, the candidate for this project will be in a unique position to push our knowledge of asteroids in our Solar System, and specifically the ones that can threaten the Earth. The main aim of this PhD project is to advance our understanding of the asteroid population and its potential impact on Earth by using LSST and fireball networks to detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids. The secondary aim to to make use of cutting-edge data from the Australian DREAMS telescope infrared survey, a so far poorly explored parameter space for asteroid characterisation. This PhD project has significant scientific and practical significance. Scientifically, it will advance our understanding of the asteroid population and its potential impact on Earth, and it will contribute to efforts to protect Earth from potential asteroid impacts. Practically, it will develop and test new algorithms and software tools for analysing LSST and DREAMS data, which can be used by astronomers and planetary defence experts to detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids, and to develop and implement mitigation strategies. Overall, this project will contribute to the ongoing efforts to study asteroids and their potential impact on Earth, and to protect our planet from potential catastrophic events.

Background preferred: data science, astronomy, physics.
Main supervisor: Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix
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Analysing superbolide impacts using Earth observation satellites

The chance that one of the many Earth observation satellites capture the very instant of an asteroid impact on Earth are slim. But asteroid impacts leave dust trails that can be visible for hours. The project is about analysing evidence of superbolide dust trails left in the atmosphere by asteroid impacts, covering both visible (RGB) down to infrared wavelengths. Picture: dust trail from a superbolide over the Bering straight in 2018, imaged by the Himawari-8 weather satellite.

Background preferred: science.
Main supervisor: Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix
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Modern machine learning object detection algorithms applied to fireballs

The Desert Fireball Network has been observing large shooting stars (fireball) at night time for nearly 10 years, detecting fireball using traditional image processing methods as well as image classification algorithms. With ~10,000 fireball images reviewed by humans and processed, a considerable training dataset has been built. This project will use modern object detection tools (YOLO type) to build a new transient detection model, and apply it to the 50 million images present in the DFN archive.

Background preferred: science or computing.
Main supervisor: Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix
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For other opportunities, check out these pages: Planetary Science (SSTC), Astronomy (CIRA), or get in touch so we can chat more about your interests.

Depending on your interest, we likely have a project for you. The specific projects above may be more suited to the backgrounds listed, but we will consider applications from other backgrounds if suitable.
A round of scholarships is currently open to Australian and NZ students, until end August 2023
And we currently have one available international scholarship available at the moment.

Background on the research environment

Planetary science involves the study of solar system formation and evolution, the geology of planets and their atmospheres, asteroid impacts and dynamics. Fundamentally, it is the study of how a nebula of dust and gas can evolve to a planetary system, and generate planets capable of supporting life. It pulls together multiple fields, pure and applied, including engineering.

Curtin University has the largest planetary science research program in Australia, inclusive of the Desert Fireball Network, and is looking to expand this vibrant and diverse team with new PhD students.

The Space Science and Technology Centre has pioneered the development of large networked facilities using hardened autonomous observatories. The Desert Fireball Network (DFN) has 50 autonomous stations across Australia. It has been observing ~2.5 million km2 of Australian skies since 2015. It provides a spatial context for meteorites – we can track a rock back to where it originated in the solar system, and forward to where it lands, for recovery by a field party. The database of >1400 meteoroid orbits is larger than the combined literature dataset for >70 years of observation, providing a unique window into the distribution of debris in the inner solar system. With 14 international partners, and facilitated by NASA, the project has recently expanded to a global facility. The Global Fireball Observatory (GFO) will cover x5 the observing area of the DFN, able to track debris entering our atmosphere 24 hours a day. These networks informed the development of a satellite tracking network – FireOPAL – with Lockheed Martin. Although designed for satellite observations, FireOPAL also happens to be a world-class astronomical transient observatory. The DFN, GFO, and FireOPAL are helping us answer fundamental questions in planetary science and astronomy. If you would like to be part of this team, and work with colleagues in universities around the world, at NASA, and in industry, read on.